Quotidian presents This PLACE, an exhibition of work by Dale Davis, June Edmonds, Srijon Chowdhury, Dwora Fried, Umar Rashid, Fran Siegel, and Carla Viparelli. This PLACE focuses on artists who articulate, correct and/or challenge historical narratives about geographical and cultural perceptions of place. Grounded by never before exhibited 1960s ceramic works by Dale Davis–multimedia artist and Brockman Gallery co-founder who made space for the Black Arts West movement, This PLACE highlights how artists know, remember, and reimagine environments that are relevant to their identities and personal aesthetic concerns, as well as the histories that define public visual awareness. The exhibition will be on view from Saturday January 25th through March 21st, 2020, with an opening reception Saturday January 25th from 3 to 6pm.
The objective of the show is twofold: First, in accordance with Quotidian’s mission, This PLACE highlights the ways in which LA functions as an incubator for innovative art practices, particularly ones that are geared towards visual narrative. Second, the exhibition presents PLACE in the ways that these seven artists have encountered it, made it, and been inspired by it–as constructed through a conversation between individual perspective, memory, history, and both shared consensus and contested ground.
The historical context for the show is provided by Dale Davis, who in 1967 started Brockman Gallery in Leimert Park with his brother Alonzo. The gallery helped launch the careers of now internationally recognized artists, including David Hammons, Betye Saar, and Senga Nengudi, among others. At that time, the space that Davis made for these artists meant that he deferred the focus on his own practice, and accordingly this exhibition marks the first time these objects are on public view. These ceramic works were created while Davis was pursuing a BFA in ceramics at the University of Southern California, and they are unusual in the way that Davis distorted traditional ceramic forms — acting as a commentary on USC as a traditional ceramics institution (made famous by Glen Lukens then Vivika Heino), and as a clear message that Davis was dedicated to changing ideas about place both in his gallery and in his own art.
An LA native and direct beneficiary of Davis’s vision, June Edmonds, uses her art practice to question the dreams deferred for black Americans. Her saturated draped black flags honor the 54th regiment, an all-black volunteer infantry that fought during the American Civil War for freedoms that Edmonds’ flags acknowledge are still not won. These sculptural works challenge the viewer to conceive of American liberty in three dimensions: as objects of desire, power and loss.
Srijon Chowdhury’s Arch series invokes place and history through feeling and impression–a blurred vision of personal and cultural memory that uses beauty as both an invitation and a barrier. The compositions are inspired by a mosque built by Chowdhury’s great-grandfather on the coast of Bangladesh, and the repetition in form and content in the work creates a space between certainty and mythology, the uncertain ground upon which Chowdhury positions history and memory.
Dwora Fried’s work looks at the tension between beauty and violence in post-WWII Vienna. Fried’s mother survived Auschwitz and the death march to Bergen-Belson. For Fried, her mother’s unwillingness to relive and recount the Holocaust raised questions in her understanding of herself and the Austria’s past that she answers with her own quasi-historical narratives. Each vignette balances playful representation with painful realities of what growing up in a house once owned by her great Uncle who died in the camps meant for Fried’s sense of self and place.
Umar Rashid’s practice considers what the New World would look had the outcome of the great battles over Empire been different. His large-scale work Paradis: Play this at my funeral and my rebirth conflates African-American play, Haitian vodun symbology, technology and Afrofuturism, and the fierce implications that black and brown indigenous bodies–and specifically the labor from those bodies– are part of a larger game that is still in play. The human scale of this work questions the viewer’s complicity in what is, and in what might have been.
Fran Siegel’s draped paintings deconstruct patterns found in Renaissance era porcelain; patterns that use imagery and design elements taken from Indian, Persian and Middle Eastern art, while erasing the power dynamics at play in those appropriations. Siegel juxtaposes these patterns in a dystopian collage of texture and textile to highlight how empires flatten identity and geography in the pursuit of beauty and power.
Carla Viparelli also holds up concepts of European identity for inspection. Her work merges shards of Italian ceramics that are the pride of the nation’s history–but are in fact born and borrowed from Africa–with images of African faces that are rejected as contemporary migrants on Italian shores. Viparelli questions how one African resource is weighed over another, and whether humanity is lost when we value mythology over lives; when we value our stories and histories more than we value each other.
All of the artists in This Place use their well-established and thoughtful visual literacy to engage the viewer in conversations about what it means to occupy space.
–co-written by jill moniz and Deb Klowden Mann, as we work to articulate place through collaboration. January, 2020